While every little town and village in New Zealand seems to have a jet boat operator, it’s important to realise that Queenstown played a pioneering role in the jet boating industry and it is still regarded by many as THE place to go for a spin on a river.
There are four jet boating companies operating in Queenstown: KJet, Shotover Jet, Skippers Canyon Jet and Thunder Jet.
KJet (formerly known as Kawarau Jet) is the world’s first commercial jet boat operation and it offers a 60-minute experience that gives you a 43km ride that combines both the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers and features plenty of 360º spins.
Trips on the yellow KJet boats depart from Queenstown’s waterfront and a ride includes entry to Queenstown’s underwater observatory.
The Shotover Jet operates exclusively on the Shotover River. It is a shorter and more expensive ride than the other Queenstown-based jet boat operators, but it is a more exciting ride taking you deep into the Shotover River Canyon.
Trips on the red Shotover Jet depart from the Shotover Jet base, 7km from Queenstown’s town centre but they also run a complimentary shuttle bus every 15 minutes from The Station tour booking centre (on the corner of Camp and Shotover Streets).
Skippers Canyon Jet
Skippers Canyon Jet takes you right into Skippers Canyon on the narrowest canyons on the Shotover River. Like the Shotover Jet, the Skippers Canyon Jet focuses on the Shotover River with a 30-minute jet boating experience; but unlike the other jet boat operators the trip includes a bus transfer that takes on the infamous Skippers Canyon Road. Some people claim that it is worth it for the bus transfer alone (particularly since you may not be able to do this yourself as many rental car companies prohibit you from driving on this road).
The Skippers Canyon Jet departs from their base inside Skippers Canyon with bus transfers departing from The Station tour booking centre (on the corner of Camp and Shotover Streets).
Thunder Jet is a one-hour jet boat ride that takes you 47km down the Kawarau River. It is relatively good value considering that it’s a one-hour ride, but it misses out on the narrow canyons of the Shotover River that you get with the Shotover Jet and Skippers Canyon Jet. The Thunder Jet departs from the Queenstown waterfront and includes more time on the lake than the other jet boat operators.